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Canada’s British Columbia to mark Swahili Community week

Canada’s province of British Columbia has declared July 2 to 9, 2022 as Swahili Community week. This was in recognition of the contributions made by Swahili-speaking people from Eastern and South Africa including Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Mozambique, Angola, Malawi, Zanzibar, Comoros and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This, the declaration noted, recognises the importance of multilingualism and multiculturalism by promoting international understanding and unity in diversity.

“Whereas in November 2021, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) declared July 7 as a World Kiswahili Day (Swahili) language Day, and whereas the Community week is an opportunity to promote unity among all Swahili-speaking communities, to increase awareness of the community’s values and to educate society on issues affecting Swahili-speaking community in the providence,” a charter for British Columbia reads in part.

The theme of the Swahili Community Day also celebrated understanding, tolerance and dialogue, by embracing, exploring and enjoying the cultural heritage of the Swahili speaking community.

In June 2018, Vancouver’s Mayor, Gregor Robertson, proclaimed the week of June 22 as Swahili Community Day. On November 23, 2021, the United Nations designated July 7 as the World Kiswahili Language Day — the official day to celebrate the Swahili language.

The announcement was made by the Unesco during its 41st Member States’ session held in Paris, France which made Swahili the first African language to be feted by the UN. It is one of the official languages of the African Union.

Swahili is “among the 10 most widely spoken languages in the world, with more than 200 million speakers,” Unesco stated in its proposal to member states to proclaim World Kiswahili Language Day.

“We received the news of Unesco designating 7 July as Swahili Language Day with great joy. We consider this as Tanzania’s gift to the world,” said Prof Kennedy Gastorn, Tanzanian’s Permanent Representative to the UN headquarters in New York, in an interview with UN News – Kiswahili.

According to Unesco, Professor Gastorn said that Tanzania requested this specific day because on 7 July 1954, the Tanganyika African National Union — the ruling party of then Tanganyika—led by Julius Nyerere, declared Swahili as an important tool in the fight for independence.

With its origin in East Africa, Swahili speakers spread over more than 14 countries namely Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Somalia, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Comoros, as well as Oman and Yemen in the Middle East.

Southern African countries such as South Africa and Botswana have introduced it in schools, while Namibia and others are considering doing so. More than 100 universities, colleges and schools in the US, Asia and Europe offer Swahili as a course.